A coven is a group or circle as I call it of witches that meet to honor the deities and celebrate the turning of the wheel together. In general terms they meet for the 8 holidays and 13 full moons a year but also may meet at other times too. Many covens keep a limit on the number of witches that are in the group and it’s usually 13. I have been in a group as large as 13 and as small as 2 and it’s very different the bigger the group gets.
Covens and circles are usually by invitation only and have a 3-degree system of ranking if you will. I was in a coven for three years and went through second-degree initiation and did all the requirements including papers and tests beforehand! When starting my own group in the tradition I was from in 2001, I set it up exactly the same. After a few years of people coming and going and then realizing that there was too much paperwork from classes and attendance, I changed the coven structure a little bit. I looked into why we do the things we do. This led me to my belief that what is important is the relationship between the people in the group and how they are getting along and forming friendships in a circle with love and trust. I didn’t feel the need for degrees and a strict heirarchy that some groups have that technically makes me a high priestess but I prefer the term “leader” as I don’t think of myself as above everyone else in the group. So we don’t do the set rules, initiations with degrees and that kind of thing. We do celebrate rites of passage in each others lives including births, deaths, members leaving or special blessings if someone has reached a certain point or achievement. The circle is in effect a group of people who like to honor the pagan gods and goddesses together and work on furthering their abilities together rather than solitary.
I am a solitary person and don’t fit what would be the typical coven member I don’t think. From when I was first in a coven in college I realized that I got a lot out of my spiritual experience by being able to share with others and to talk about things and celebrate those things that we all have in common with each other. If I have set times scheduled for things then I am going to participate rather than let it pass. Covens used to be more sparse especially in some areas of the country but now it seems you can find covens or circles in every town. The West Coast is very pagan friendly in my opinion and so it’s sometimes easy to find others of a like mind. Our circle meets for the 9 holidays we celebrate plus every Sunday and sometimes a field trip somewhere. A circle has no beginning and is never ending and even if there are two people or 13 together in a circle it is still a sacred thing.